When To Consider Euthanasia

Euthanasia is without doubt one of the hardest things you will ever do for your pet. And maybe one of the kindest things too.

Sometimes the decision is made easier (if there can even be ‘easier’) by the urgency of the situation and lack of alternatives. A pet may be in extreme pain and suffering without any possibility of recovery.

What can be even more difficult is when the gradual onset of incurable disease causes slow, gradual deterioration in the quality of life of the pet. Where do you draw the red line? When do you say ‘The pain and suffering are making his life unbearable’?

In a way we humans are ‘lucky’. The leading causes of death in people are strokes and heart attacks. Both of those usually kill quickly. In dogs and cats these diseases are rare. They more often die of multiple organ failure – a slow and painful way to go. Don’t expect to wake up one morning and find that your pet has passed on peacefully during the night. This does happen sometimes but not very often. More often then not, it is you who will have to make the final decision for him.

I am not a subscriber to the common belief that pets ‘let you know’ when it’s time for them to go. The chronic illness battlers I have met (and I have met many) will just keep going no matter what. Without the understanding and the ability to rationalise their suffering, all there is is the desire to push on despite pain.

So what do you look for? Well, to me it’s a totality of factors which make his life ‘worth living’, ‘enjoyable’. Consider the following elements:



-Active time


-Interacting with you and other family members

Acute pain episodes – how often?

-Restless sleep


-What my Vet thinks about him

Take the list above and grade each parameter as ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘intermediate’. Now look at you grades. Which of the answers predominates?

If the ‘good’ is in the majority, maybe the situation is not hopeless just yet. Review the situation regularly and start making plans for the final moments as the picture can change quickly.

If the ‘bad’ is in the majority, maybe it’s time to consider that decision.

Talk it over with other members of the family and your Vet. Having others participate does make the burden easier.

If you decide to go ahead with euthanasia, plan how you want the event to proceed. Decide if you want your pet’s body cremated or buried. Plan ahead whom to take with you on the final trip to the Vet. If your dog is distressed, organising for sedation prior to the event may save you and him much stress.

Whatever happens, remember you are your best friend’s best advocate and whatever decision you take can not be wrong as long as you have his best interests at heart.

One comment

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